Laundromats Feeling the Effects of High Natural Gas Prices

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

November 29, 2005

You might want to start getting those extra quarters ready because pretty soon it may cost you more to do your laundry. The spike in natural gas prices is forcing some laundromats to raise prices.

Ashley Milton has been doing her laundry at Preston Suds for about two years. It costs the UVa student about $200 a semester, but she says she doesn't mind paying it.

"I kind of view it as laundry's really important and you sort of have to clean clothes so it's worth it," said Milton.

It maybe worth it now, but with natural gas prices up so high, many laundromat owners are being forced to decide whether to raise prices or risking going out of business. Many owners haven't changed prices in over four years, so up until now a lot of them have absorbed the cost. Charlie Smith owns three laundromats. He says lately his monthly electric bills have skyrocketed.

"Over the past year, our bills have gone up pretty significantly,since last November we've gone from $1,084 at our Maury Street [location] to $1,635 this November, that's a 61 percent increase," said Smith.

Smith says he's looking at raising prices soon--for laundromats that means reducing the number of washing minutes per quarter. Other alternatives include buying more fuel-efficent washers, but those take longer.

"Most customers don't like that, it's better just to leave everything the same, leave your gas consumption the same, leave your heats the same and simply reduce your number of minutes per quarter," said Smith.

But although she's certainly not looking forward to the hike, Milton says as with gas prices and everything else that's going up, it's something she'll just have to deal with.

"I don't think there's a whole lot me as a consumer can really do about it," said Milton. "I'lll just have to be conscious about it and make choices from there."

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